Review Rundown: Camino Real

“The play is a co-production between Boston Court and CalArts.  CalArts provided the design talent, who brought the inspired photo booth to life, and the bulk of the actors. It’s an inspired partnership, after all what small LA theater could afford a production with 20 actors in this economic climate? It’s a model we don’t see enough of in LA, a mix of aspiring students and seasoned professionals.”

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“The romantics of history (Don Quixote, Lord Byron, Camille, Casanova, Killroy) have somehow stumbled into this dry, gray “end of the royal road” and are caught by their own dreams and desires, stymied at every turn, seeing their best selves wither at the onslaught of what passes for reality on the Camino, fighting for the courage to leave, change, grow. This is not a happy play, but it’s a good play, a haunting (and perhaps daunting) play—and maybe an essential one for this moment.”

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“The award-winning stage company The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena has taken the bold step of selecting and staging a seldom-seen experimental work by Williams, Camino Real. This fact alone should persuade you to book your tickets rápido. Camino Real may not be one of the legendary playwright’s best and more accessible works, but this brilliantly staged co-production …. is well-worth seeing.”

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GO! “Can you still love when you’re old and cynical? Can art survive amid crass capitalism? And is being a former talent a source of pride or shame? Kubzansky’s ensemble is outstanding, even wringing a knowing chuckle from the faux-naif line, “Why does disappointment make people unkind?” With all technical contributions including Silvanne E.B. Park’s costumes hitting high marks, Camino Real is a curiosity that you’re not likely to see again — let alone this well.”

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“Imagine you could witness one of Tennessee Williams’ nightmares—a nearly three-hour-long one after an ingestion of LSD. What you’d see would likely resemble the playwright’s Camino Real, or at least Camino Real as envisioned by director extraordinaire Jessica Kubzansky at Theatre @ Boston Court. Though there will be some who after the play’s ninety-minute-long first act won’t stick around for the second, for the adventurous theatergoer, and more particularly for the diehard Tennessee Williams fan, Camino Real is well worth a look-see.”

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“”Camino Real” is not easy, but it can be fascinating. As I often say about shows at Boston Court, go see it with people you enjoy holding intellectual conversations with afterward. In any case, it’s a rare chance to see an unusual side of a great master, at a moment in time when he was willing to throw conventions out of the window and speak directly from some deep inner space. Come, also, to celebrate the future of theater as an art form, as honed professionals and CalArts students blend to make this production a reality.”

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“This collaboration between The Theatre @ Boston Court and the CalArts School of Theater, directed by Jessica Kubzansky, approaches the challenge with great brio.  Always generous to actors, Williams crammed his play with star turns, and many of the performers here — an ensemble of 21 students and professionals — shine.   Matthew Goodrich embodies the sweet, pugnacious über-Southern boy Kilroy so naturally that the role could have been written for him.  Cristina Frias plays the Gypsy as a chatty, good-natured cynic; as her daughter, the prostitute Esmerelda, the stunning Kalean Ung is a powerful mixture of innocence and temptation.”

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“When Tennessee Williams’ three-hour epic—a mix of edgy surrealism and poetic reverie—premiered in 1953, it largely perplexed audiences accustomed to the playwright’s more conventional works, but it has subsequently become more widely appreciated. The challenges faced by director Jessica Kubzansky and a 20-member ensemble (mostly faculty, alumni, and students of CalArts) generally pay off in a viscerally stunning and emotionally resonant portrait of longing, suffering, and redemption. Though the rigorous demands of this wildly adventurous vehicle exceed the company’s grasp at times, it’s a dazzling production, awash with lyrical flourishes that feel like quintessential Williams.”

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The cast was absolutely phenomenal. However, the two stand-out stars were Brian Tichnell as “Gutman” and Jasmine Hughes as “The Blind Mother.” Tichnell was perfectly confident, being both fascinating and commanding. Hughes’ acting was beautifully tragic, and she portrayed her character most poignantly.”

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Kubzansky stages the action with great vitality, excelling in big set piece moments such the arrival of a passenger plane or the departure of a dead man into the keeping of the sinister street sweepers, and the constant activity of the large ensemble is admirably detailed. A few things don’t work, such as the actors flailing about at every “block change,” or the unexplained shaking the actors occasionally exhibit, but overall this is an expertly directed production. Dorothy Hoover’s set is efficient if a bit bland, but Silvanne E.B. Park’s costumes are creative and sumptuous, notably the street sweeper’s bloodstained uniforms and Gutman’s leather dressing gown with bright red silk lining. Patrick Janssen’s sound design adds depth to the reality of the Camino Real, and Kwan Fai Lam’s terrific original music accentuates the drama and excitement.”

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“The work’s class consciousness is excitingly evoked by designer Dorothy Hoover in environments high and low. At the end of their ropes, echoes of past and future Williams characters stagger past the ritzy Siete Mares Hotel’s velvet ropes to the appalling squalor of the “Ritz Men Only.” The doomed Camille here, Marguerite Gautier (Marissa Chibas), is like Blanche DuBois in loving neither wisely nor well, while the faded, melancholy Jacques Casanova (Tim Cummings) presages defrocked Shannon in “Night of the Iguana.””

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“The only way to leave El Camino Real in this production is to climb a small ladder into what appears to be a booth for camera snapshots, as if each has to face the reality of his image before he can escape. For these vain and lost individuals it is a frightening possibility, fraught with all the perils of losing, on top of everything else, one’s soul and sanity, that keeps them from attempting the unknown. But with Quixote’s faith to support him, Kilroy takes the leap and, as Quixote declares “the violets push through the rock.””

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“…the scene between Kilroy and Esmeralda, when he attempts to lift her veil (does anybody need to be told what that is a metaphor for?), is a gem, because Matthew Goodrich and Kalean Ung play it simply, without adornment. And, finally, despite the brevity of his scenes, Lenny Van Dohlen brings genuine dignity to both his Don Quixote and his Baron de Charlus…”

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One response to “Review Rundown: Camino Real

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